Designers of the Year Photo Credit: Pyrrha Design

Fashion Designer of the Year 2010: Pyrrha Design

Pyrrha Design’s Wade Papin and Danielle Wilmore find success in living in the moment.

In a 100-year-old character home set in an industrial zone straddling Vancouver’s East and West sides, a team of young women is busy soldering and polishing silver pendants imprinted with antique wax seals. The workshop and materials echo ateliers of centuries past, but “our ideas and inspiration are never more than a couple of months old,” says Danielle Wilmore, one half of the recently married husband-and-wife team behind Pyrrha Design. “If we haven’t moved on an idea within a few months, we drop it.”

That seize-the-moment attitude paid dividends when the couple happened upon a recently vacated (the former tenant a victim of the recession) retail space in West Hollywood last spring—and signed the lease two days later. Recognizing that “good opportunities happen at inopportune times” made 2010 a breakthrough year for a jewellery line of cast-silver pendants, rings and bracelets that has already enjoyed international success—it’s carried in 250 stores in eight countries—and has earned a coveted celebrity following: Brad (as in Pitt), Taylor (as in Swift) and Scarlett (as in Johansson) are all Pyrrha fans.

Pyrrha Design
Pyrrha Design’s Wade Papin and Danielle Wilmore.

Pyrrha’s commercial success and diverse clientele are perhaps best explained by the deeply personal meaning that each seal holds for the wearer. Made from authentic 19th-century wax seals bearing symbols, crests and mottoes, they allow for endless interpretation: a bleeding heart talisman can be sweet and feminine or punk and edgy. (The couple spotted the seals that were part of the initial collection while antique shopping in Vancouver. “It wasn’t immediately obvious what to do with them,” says Wade Papin. “We bought them because we loved them.”)

Despite the breadth of the collection—there are some 300 different seals—judge John Fluevog praised the cohesiveness of the brand. “I love that all the pieces have a relationship.”

“Our line isn’t tailored to any one moment,” agrees Papin. “It will always hover on the edges of trends. What we love most about our line is how we’re taking a fragile thing and giving it permanence. It’s very romantic.”

Pyrrha Design
The Latin inscription on the ring (bottom left) translates as “A sound conscience is a wall of brass.”

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